The Sydcast is all about intimate and informative conversations with fascinating people you may not know. Until now. Because everyone has a story.
Listen in as Syd talks to entrepreneurs, community leaders, professional athletes, politicians, academics, authors, musicians, and many more about who they are and how they got there.
Sydney Finkelstein is an award winning professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, and a best-selling author of Superbosses and 25 other books. He’s written for the Harvard Business Review, the BBC, Fortune, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and more academic journals than you’d care to know about. He spends his time asking questions, and sometimes, even answering them.
In the age of Amazon, it’s important for a start-up e-commerce company to be able to offer something different. This is why exclusivity is such an important element. When offering an exclusive partnership with vendors or suppliers, it’s also important to establish mutual benefits within that partnership. Dave states that the secret to make all of this happen effectively is determination, motivation, and inspiration among the team. In this episode, Dave Bolotsky describes giving up a lucrative, stable career to start a new business in e-commerce and why he did it. He also describes some fears and struggles that he experienced as an entrepreneur in a relatively new industry at the time.
Syd Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Professor Finkelstein has published 25 books and 90 articles, including the bestsellers Why Smart Executives Fail and Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, which LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman calls the “leadership guide for the Networked Age.” He is also a Fellow of the Academy of Management, a consultant and speaker to leading companies around the world, and a top 25 on the Global Thinkers 50 list of top management gurus. Professor Finkelstein’s research and consulting work often relies on in-depth and personal interviews with hundreds of people, an experience that led him to create and host his own podcast, The Sydcast, to uncover and share the stories of all sorts of fascinating people in business, sports, entertainment, politics, academia, and everyday life.
David Bolotsky founded UncommonGoods with the goal of introducing more people to creative design in a sustainable way. UncommonGoods is a hub of creativity - from collaborations where we work with designers to help get products made to the commerce side of our website and catalog where customers can purchase a broad range of items that are great for gifts or themselves. We strive to do everything in a sustainable manner, beginning with treating everyone with dignity and respect, paying a living wage, using environmentally-friendly materials and working with vendors who share similar practices. We are a Founding B Corporation and we successfully advocated for Paid Family Leave and a higher minimum wage in New York.
In an earlier life, Dave was a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, specializing in investment research in the retail sector. Dave is active in community service in New York’s Lower East Side, where his family has lived for generations. Dave was a founder of Comprehensive Youth Development, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide support services to disadvantaged public high school students, where he has been involved for 27 years.
Insights from this episode:
- The importance of exclusivity in partnership with another company to develop mutual benefits.
- Tips and ideas for starting an e-commerce business in the age of Amazon.
- Balancing merchandise predictions and sales using analytics, inspiration, and insight.
- The return on investment for advertising an online retail store versus the investment for a physical retail store.
- Finding your company’s critical competitive advantage over larger retailers.
- Doing something that is more aligned with your values.
Quotes from the show:
“I think that the mindset of the entrepreneur is one that I hope each of us, whether we’re entrepreneurial or not, whether we are in business or not, each of us can adopt. I mean, it really is a can-do attitude. It really is, ok I got a problem I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to try to solve this problem and I’m not just going to complain about it. And that’s a pretty important life skill.” - Syd Finkelstein [01:42]
“Just about anything that can go wrong, has gone wrong over the past 22 years at one time or another. So, better to be ready for it than be surprised by it.” - Dave Bolotsky [25:44]
“At Goldman I sort of had the equivalent of front row seats at Madison Square Garden watching, assuming the Knicks were good at the time, watching the Knicks play. And it was exciting, but it was a spectator sport. I was a critic as opposed to an actor. And I’d always had that feeling gnawing at me, that I wanted to try to build something. The internet was such an exciting thing and I wanted to be more of an actor in it.” - Dave Bolotsky [29:21]
“There is way more to life than money. And my parents had raised me to try to make the world a better place in whatever way that I could, as corny as it sounds. And they’ve lived their lives that way. And I felt like I wasn’t. I didn’t feel like what I was doing was immoral, but I felt it was amoral. I was helping the wheels of capitalism spin faster but not necessarily in a direction that I particularly believed in.” - Dave Bolotsky [30:01]
“I think that was probably the single biggest thing that I had to work on was my nature to look at the glass as half empty and recognize that that’s not inspiring. It’s great, if you’re an analyst, to identify what’s wrong. It’s also very helpful as a CEO, but I had to learn how to tamp that down and be more positive and frame things in a more constructive way. - Dave Bolotsky [35:32]
“The one thing I could say from my own experience, having taught MBA students now for almost three decades, is there’s been a tremendous change in their mindset coming in the door. And they absolutely care a lot about environmental and social issues, diversity and inclusion. And the rubber meets the road when you see what companies they work for and what those values are and what they’re going to do when a company doesn’t have all the values or doesn’t live up to the values they might espouse. - Syd Finkelstein [54:45]
On advice to his twenty-one year old self: “I would say be kind to yourself. You know, my parents always raised me to believe in myself and I think I have. I’ve certainly had self-doubt, but in general believed in myself. But, that glass half empty mindset can wear on you and wear you down, because I’m my own harshest critic. And so, I think just appreciating the things that go well and focusing on that as much as things that I can do better.” - Dave Bolotsky [56:32]
LinkedIn: Sydney Finkelstein
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LinkedIn: Dave Bolotsky
This episode was produced and managed by Podcast Laundry (www.podcastlaundry.com)